Is drug testing a violation of your rights

Having just gotten a new job, I had to take a drug test and a physical. This is for a customer service job on the phones. I was more than willing to take the test, especially coming from my previous job. (Sometime I felt like our help wanted ads said “No Drug Test Required”, since about half of the employees were strung out on something.)

Anyway, I mentioned it to my father, and he seems to think that it is a violation of my rights, that what I do outside of work is my business, not the company’s. I disagree. I think that what is done outside of work can also be done inside work. I think companies are able to get a little bit of insurance against drug problems when they drug test.

How do you feel about it?

Did they run some test to make sure that alcohol wasn’t ruining your liver?


The company has a right to know whether you’re on drugs or alcohol at work – and only at work.

Sure, by testing applicants for private drug use, they can restrict the pool to those who are least likely to use drugs at work. By testing for private alcohol use, they can find those who are least likely to drink on the job. By only hiring rich people, they can reduce the risk of employee theft. And by only hiring married people, they can reduce time spent on unproductive office flirting.

But that’s only on average. Someone who drinks at home won’t necessarily drink at work; someone who uses drugs on the weekends won’t necessarily come to work stoned. Obviously it’s a bad idea to fire all the poor employees just because some of them might be inclined to steal from the cash register.

There are ways to test current intoxication. If an employer wants to prevent drug use at work, he can do it without invading his employees’ private lives.

First off: There is no “Right to be stoned”.

Second: What you do in your private time can affect what happens on the job. Would you like knowing that your grocer had been rolling around in elephant dung before starting his shift?

Third: An employee’s behavior reflects on the company. An employer has the responsibility to make sure the company remains as solvent as possible… and if they’re staffed by a bunch of drug addicts, that can damage their image and financial income.

SPOOFE Bo Diddly:

There’s a right to privacy. Your employer can’t demand to know your religion, and there would be some hell raised if employers started refusing to hire single people.

I don’t care what my grocer rolls around in on his personal time as long as he doesn’t bring it to work, and I don’t care what my bus driver drinks or smokes on his personal time as long as he’s sober when he’s behind the wheel. If you’ll read my post again, you’ll notice that I mentioned impairment testing.

“Drug testing” typically refers to a test that measures drug use within the past several days or weeks. What the grocer rolled around in last week has no bearing on how clean he is today.

In that case, let’s fire anyone whose private actions we (or whoever the “image” is targeted at) might disagree with - drinkers, smokers, divorcees, pro-life demonstrators, vegetarians, Coke drinkers, Catholics…

I should also mention that “drug addict” is not the same as “someone who smoked a joint two weeks ago”, just like “alcoholic” is not the same as “someone who had a beer last night”.

I never alluded otherwise. But an employer has the right to take steps that are necessary to maintain the integrity of his or her company. If he chooses to refuse to hire people who undertake illegal activity on a regular basis, he should be well within his rights to do so. After all, if the employee goes to jail, that screws up the company, too.

I don’t think you’re getting me. What a person does on their personal time is, in fact, their business. But suppose someone gets completely smashed an hour before their shift? When they start work, that shit’s still going to be in their system.

Too true. But rolling around in elephant dung is also legal (as far as I know… if you can get a big enough supply of dung).

Are you suggesting that drinking alcohol, smoking cigarrettes, getting divorced, abstaining from eating meat, etc. are all illegal activities? Because I can assure you that they’re not. :rolleyes:

I agree. I never alluded otherwise.

They have a right to run their business. They have a right to choose what kind of image they want to project. They have a right to refuse to hire people who may potentially cause problems for the company, and they have the right to set the standard for what a “potential problem” is. If YOU don’t like it, you have the right to shop your resume’ around town.

This is known as “Capitalism”.

SPOOFE Bo Diddly:

Yes. Again, impairment testing. An employer has the right to know if his employees are intoxicated at work. A joint five minutes before work is the employer’s business; a joint five days before is not.

Then you have no problem with an employee drinking a bottle of vodka before work, since you only care about illegal acctivities, right?

And if an employer decides that Catholics or married people might be a “potential problem”, he has the right not to hire them? Or is that wrong simply because it’s illegal?

I’m not in favor of drug testing. However, that said, I understand that I’m not compelled to work for a business that insists that pre-employment drug testing be conducted. I don’t presume to have some kind of “right” that is being violated by a business having a policy that requires a pre-employment test. Certainly I beleive that companies with this kind of policy miss out on some valuable and productive employees, but hey, that’s their loss.

everybody has rights.

the company has the right to ask that you wear a pink tutu at work. You have the right to refuse to work under those conditions.

Pre employment drug screenings often will allow a company to get a break on their worker’s comp insurance. it won’t , of course prevent people showing up for work drunk/stoned etc. or committing other illegal or destructive dangerous acts on company time. It may or may not minimize that possability. The companies who choose to do testing seem to believe (for whatever reason) that it will.

IME, serious drug users/abusers have no real difficulty getting past most routine pre employment drug screenings. Those folks, however, often will have assorted other problems staying employed even if they pass the screen (again, IME)

In fact, with women at the correction center that I used to run, most got by even random ones (until we had a policy that allowed us to request a specimin any time, and they had one hour in which to provide the specimin, and had to stay within the staff’s eyesight until the specimin was provided. even then I had a few slip by, until I got a hospital device used to collect and measure urinary output, so they’d put that over the toilet and have their arms straight out - but I digress).

At this point, as far as I can tell, we don’t have reliable testing available for determining if people are currently under the influence (vs. having consumed some drug w/in a period of time). Somebody could make a mint if they developed such a thing.

If drug testing were a violation of rights, by now every company that does it would have already been sued. The guy who shows up with booze on his breath after lunch? Depending on the company, he can be fired. (I’ve seen it happen). Where do you draw the line on what job can allow people to come to work with drugs in their system? Or just let it go. No need for drug testing. All employers have no right to test for drugs, because hey, drugs will not affect anyone’s ability to do their job right? Surgeons wanna mainline some heroin before coming in to work? So what. The cops? Hey, let em puff some crack now and then during their breaks… might actually improve their response time. The airplane mechanic smoked a dime bag before his shift? Hey, it’s his business. The payroll secretary that handles your time card likes a little hit of acid now and then? Don’t worry about it. Since you can’t smell drugs in a person’s system, wait until they actually screw up to test their system to see if they are on something. Yes, I know, “well, what about a guy on Nyquil”? Hey, I’ve seen people sent home for being on Rx drugs too. When drugs are made legal, then run it like prescription drugs. But here’s a news flash… right now, drugs are illegal, and if you are doing illegal stuff even on your own time, you can be dismissed. Get caught robbing a liquor store and depending on your company, you will probably find yourself at the top of the list in a “downsizing”. If you can’t follow basic laws on the weekend, why should a company to expect you to be a stand-up person at work? Don’t like the rules? Don’t work for that company.

[sub]Alert: The following text is typed under the influence of Robitussin[sup]tm[/sup] cough syrup, and thus may not be as coherent as I would like.[/sub]

Is it my right not to be tested for drugs to obtain employment? Can’t say for sure; it’s a gray area.

The fourth amendment says:

My understanding is that the amendment applies to government actions, not to the actions of private persons or corporations. Thus, the amendment cannot be applied to a company’s decision to drug-test potential employees.

That being said, I personally believe that any company has very limited input into what I do when not at work, including drugs, legal or not.[sup]1[/sup] Just like a company cannot make me take a test to determine if I steal from my parents, beat my dog, hack the Salvation Army’s database, or pass insider trading info to my buddies, the company should not be able to make me take a test to determine whether I use drugs.

In the case of legal drugs, such as alcohol or OTCs, the company also has no means of determining whether I’m using a drug or abusing it. So a drug test for legal drugs is not particularly useful for me or for the employer. If any employer tells me I can’t have nonnarcotic cough syrup or cold meds when I have a cold because it may affect my performance, the employer’s got a serious problem with reality. The cold itself is going to adversely affect my performance. If the pharmacist and the courts tell me not to operate heavy machinery while taking narcotic cough syrup, and I’m operating heavy machinery for my employer, then yes, I could see the employer having input. But no more input than the pharmacists and courts have. In other words, they can tell me not to do it. If I do it anyway and then screw up, they can take the appropriate legal action.

Also, the efficacy of employer drug testing has not yet been proven, and the statistics used to justify it are often flawed[sup]2[/sup]. See these articles for more info:
[ul][li]HR Today article for human-resources professionals[/li][li]National Academies: Search for “drug testing” to view articles by the National Academy of Sciences indicating that drug tests have not yet been empirically proven to be effective.[/li][li]American Medical Association’s position on drug testing; note in particular “H-95.984 Issues in Employee Drug Testing”, item 3[/ul][/li]
Can the company check legal records to see if I’ve been already convicted of some crime? You betcha. That info is public record. Should I have a conviction of some sort, the company can decide whether it’s willing to risk hiring somebody with a proven record.

Can the company get pissed if I do something illegal and have to go to court? Again, you betcha. That sort of thing can cost me my job, whether or not it’s drug-related. Claiming that illegal drugs are illegal and thus justify special testing and rules doesn’t really make any sense: If they’re illegal, they’re already covered by existing laws and should be left to the police and government to enforce.

If I’ve never been convicted of any criminal behavior, the company has no reason to test me itself to see if I’m indulging in any criminal behavior. That’s the court’s job.

It has been mentioned in this thread that if drug-testing violated people’s rights, those requiring testing would have been sued. I believe that companies have not been sued because of the point I made above: that the fourth amendment applies to the government, not to private companies. Not to mention that lawsuits are hella 'spensive and stressful; it would be easier to just go get another job in most cases. And the government has been sued for requiring drug tests. Here and here are two examples. (I think both cases are still pending.)

And another thing: I differentiate between pre-employment testing, random post-employment testing, safety testing, testing with cause:
[ul][li]Pre-employment testing? I think that there is no justification for pre-employment testing in most cases. When would it be justified? Debatable. Say, for the same cases as when safety testing would be required: heavy equipment, public safety, that sort of thing.[/li][li]Random post-employment testing? Again, not in most cases. Safety testing? Hmmm. Am I working with heavy or dangerous equipment? With people’s lives? If not, there’s no reason to claim a drug test is safety-related. If so, well, it depends.[/li][li]Testing with cause? Okay, here we get into more gray areas. What’s cause? If I’m screwing up at work so badly that my boss thinks I’m using drugs on the job, something’s probably wrong. But a medical evaluation would be more appropriate than a drug test.[/ul][/li]
Because I believe that most companies do not have a legitimate justification for drug testing, I won’t work for companies that require them. I’m lucky: I have highly marketable skills and I live in an area with lots of opportunities. But others don’t have those benefits, and those others should not be forced to take drug tests to get jobs. [Kevin Meaney voice]That’s not right.[/Kevin Meaney]

Have I taken a drug test for a company that required it? Yep. Sure felt crappy about it, though. Did I pass? Yep. They offered me the job. The low-paying, customer-service, take-phone-orders job. WTF did they need a drug test for?! Did I turn 'em down. Yep, I did. And I liked myself better for it. Went and got a job that paid just as little, still required customer service, required phone orders, but didn’t require a drug test. Handy thing, competition.

Okay, enough for now. Sorry for the length of this post. Blame it on the Robitussin. :slight_smile:

[sup]1[/sup]Obligatory disclaimer: I do believe that there are some jobs that require extraordinary alertness and commitment, such as public safety, health, and transportation. For these jobs, I personally would prefer, but would not require, that employees abstain from potentially mind-altering substances before and while performing their jobs. See the American Medical Association link above.

[sup]2[/sup]This info is predictably hard to come by, because most of the published info supports drug testing. Hey, what can I say? I found the info I agreed with! :wink: If you want, you can easily find a dozen article refuting mine and post them.

Basically, if a company posts it prior to the fact, it is legal. Similar to having your briefcase searched coming in or going out of a company or installation. Is it reasonable to assume that I may have a bomb in my bag while heading to the office? No it’s not. But since there is a big sign by the door that says that my stuff, including my clothing, is subject to be searched at any time within the building, that is the right of the employer, and by my accepting that fact by continuing to walk through the door, I gave up my right to privacy over what is in my bag. Same with drug testing. If they say it’s a condition of employment and random sampling will be taken during your tenure, by accepting the job you gave up your right to be free from peeing in the cup on demand. If is NOT, then there is a case for a violation of your rights. Just as jeyen said, if you don’t like the terms, don’t accept the job.

Turbo Dog:

Um, how does this relate to drug testing? Are you aware that the typical drug test measures use in the past several days or weeks? An airline mechanic who smoked pot last week will not still be stoned today.

There are tests that measure present intoxication (impairment tests). Why do you advocate testing past drug use when it’s possible to measure the kind that actually matters?

As far as rights go, I’m not saying that drug testing is illegal… I don’t believe that rights are handed down by the government. Employers are legally able to discriminate on other factors, but I still classify those as violating employees’ rights.

Having been in charge of people who handled heavy equipment, drove trucks full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods and stored up to a million or more dollars in stuff in limited space, yeah, drug tests were necessary.

What my crews did on their free time could get us killed if they were not absolutely straight when they arrived for work. If they had a bad taste for illicite drugs, then they became a potential security risk for theft.

I did not want anyone around me that I could not trust reasonably well. No driving the fork lift through the side of a semitrailer, no driving it into the unloading pit off of the dock, no ramming the second floor joists or cargo belts when lifting boxes up, no falling over the second floor guard rails or dropping valuable goods over the side.

I not only had then drug tested before hiring, but spot tested at random and in the space of 6 years, located and fired 21 employees for using. I used to give them the opportunity to clean up, but few did.

One guy got stoned during lunch and rammed the big fork lift head on into the steel rollup door, doing a couple of thousand in damage and almost injuring employees who were working behind it. I had him tested as soon as he rolled off of the machine, and let him work for the two days it took to get the results back, helping repair the door. They were real positive, so I canned him.

People may have rights, but when their actions off duty can affect me, my crew and a few hundred thousand in goods, if they work for me those specific rights end.

After having had to undergo random drug testing for the past 17 years I am well aware of how it’s done, what it looks for, and how long individual drugs stay in your system. I don’t advocate testing of past drug use anymore than I advocate testing for past alcohol use. Drug tests, just like alcohol tests, do not measure a level of impairment, just what is in your system. If I am at work and go to lunch, eat 3 dozen chicken wings and have a beer, and am tested for BAC when I return and have a BAC of .01, I can legally be fired. I’m not impaired in the least and am anything but unfit for work. But as a condition of my employment, zero tolerance is zero tolerance. If THC is in your system, whether it’s yesterday’s or three week’s ago’s, sorry but it’s still in your system. If a company doesn’t approve of that, that is how it is. Do I think it’s wrong that I can’t have a beer with lunch? Damn right I do. But it is NOT violating my rights. It is violating the conditions of my employment if I do, which was made known to me up front. Now if your company has no testing and suddenly everyone is told to whiz in the cup and anyone testing positive for anything has to pack their shit, then I would argue that your rights are being violated, as it was not a condition of employment. My point, which perhaps wasn’t made very clear in my previous post, is that if it’s a condition of your being hired, or continued employment, it is not against your rights. You have the right to turn down that job, or take it and live up to those conditions. And again, as of this moment, drugs are illegal. If a company doesn’t want to have anyone working for them who knowingly does or has done something that is illegal, that is well within their rights, and is not violating those of that person. As for my examples, if you want to fly on planes maintained by people that are allowed to use drugs whether it’s on the weekends or during work (cuz without testing you don’t know if and when they are doing it), hey, more power to you. I’ll be driving.

Sorry for the boldface… didn’t check the code on it.

Hasn’t anyone heard of basing a person’s employment on their PERFORMANCE? If I show up for work on time, do an excellent job, and don’t cause any problems isn’t that ENOUGH? If I don’t do those things, can’t I simply be fired?

If you want to take preventive measures to make sure you’ve got a good, competent employee on your staff, call their references. It’s not necessary to use a drug screen to determine if a person will be a drain on company resources.

Another thing that concerns me about drug testing is that there could be a LOT of information in a person’s bodily fluids. I assume (but do not know) that a drug screen involves some sort of “on/off” litmus test for certain substances. I.e., they’re only testing for marijuana and cocaine for example and therefore, nothing else will make whistles and bells go off. But handing someone a body fluid sample seems AWFULLY dangerous to me. They could tell if you’re on anti-depressants, if you’re pregnant, if you’re diabetic…is this really something an employer should have access to? Do I we really want to trust our new boss enough to hand them all this information in a plastic cup.

I do not believe an employer has a right to your bodily fluiuds. And I believe that firings on the basis of such samples will be challenged successfully in court.


In part I agree. I think it’s horseshit that I’m not judged simply on my work. Since I’m not in view of the public or anyone that matters, I think it’s stupid that I can’t wear blue jeans. But that’s the rules of the division in my company that I work for. If I want to wear jeans, I can go work someplace else.

As far as testing, it is sort of a litmus thing. The employer does not do the testing. It is sent to an independant lab to be tested for the presence of SPECIFIC substances only. Usually, the tests are done for Pot, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Opiates including Heroin, and Phencyclidine aka Angel Dust. The test is not a breakdown of what is in your system. Some employers will test for less, some add LSD and a few others to the list but LSD and some of the other drugs are very expensive to test for, so most don’t. They are not allowed to test for anything that is not on the list, which by the way, you are allowed to see (in fact, I think it’s required by law for them to show it to you, but I’m not sure). If for some reason, any other drug comes up that is not on the list of things to be tested for, (throw in your examples, though all but impossible to detect on a drug test… pregnancy, disease, etc…) the medical lab that is doing the test is prohibited by law from notifying your employer of that. They are only allowed to report a negative or positive result on items they are testing for. Should they do so, regardless of the result, you would have a winning lawsuit. The testing also takes into account that some prescription and even over the counter drugs, like sudafed, can show a positive result in some categories (sudafed, IIRC, shows up as an amphetamine) and the level of detection is adjusted accordingly, meaning that taking prescribed amounts of over the counter stuff will show a different reading than doing a load of crystal meth, and not be a problem.

Turbo Dog,

Sure…I agree with you. You can always go get yourself employed elsewhere if you object to company policies. Unfortunately, that can put the employee in a sucky situation. I mean, what if you live in a one horse town and this is the only place for potential employment within 40 miles? (Can you tell I grew up on a farm?) It’s true (she says with a sigh) any business has a right to demand this from their employees. But I think it’s a shame to put a person in this position…deciding between putting up with an intrusive test or re-working their resume.

Also, I understand (now that you’ve explained it better) the way these tests are supposed to be done. It’s more the principle of the thing that I object to. Handing someone a physical record with all that information in it makes me uncomfortable…and I think it’s completely unnecessary…regardless of how much I’ve been assured that nothing personal will get back to my employer.


After just leaving a one-dog town (didn’t have room for a horse) I know what you mean. It does seem kinda scary in the grand scheme, but you have the confidentiality rules going for you. And if nothing else, look at it as an investment. Should anything personal ever come out of it, you stand to get a shitpot of money, never have to work again, be able to move to a town with a larger horse population, and give me a loan :smiley: